Fall TV: Winning 'Pitch,' 'The Exorcist' and more

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Kylie Bunbury plays a woman who plays big-league baseball in "Pitch."

If caring about baseball were a requirement for liking Fox's Pitch, I'd have been out at the first commercial break.

But one measure I use for scripted television is whether it makes me pay attention to people or situations I typically wouldn't be interested in, whether it's The Wire and west Baltimore's drug trade or Friday Night Lights and football.

It's way too soon to put Pitch, which premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, in that company. But the pilot about a woman pitcher (Kylie Bunbury) who gets called up to the San Diego Padres is a winning one, and as much about coping with overnight fame and the weight of other people's dreams as it is about baseball.

At the same time, the show - from Rick Singer and University of Pennsylvania graduate Dan Fogelman (This Is Us) - puts enough spin on its still-fictional scenario to make the story of Ginny Baker (Bunbury) plausible, so much so that Pitch producers got the cooperation of Major League Baseball.

It helps that the athletic Bunbury doesn't seem totally out of place in a Padres uniform, and even more that Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who plays a veteran catcher, has packed on enough pounds (and facial hair) to look like what John Kruk might consider a ballplayer.

Cherry Hill's Ali Larter (Heroes) is Amelia Slater, the agent trying to manage the media firestorm that surrounds her client while fending off advances from the Padres' general manager (Mark Consuelos).

Fans of Fogelman's aliens-in-New Jersey comedy, The Neighbors - we're a small, proud group - may recognize Tim Jo, who played the alien known as Reggie Jackson, as Amelia's assistant, Eliot.

Broadcast premiere week continues with three more new series over the next few days:

The Exorcist (9 p.m. Friday, Fox). In the latest reboot of the '70s horror classic, a charismatic young Roman Catholic priest, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera, Sense8), is nonplussed when one of his parishioners, a businesswoman named Angela Rance (Geena Davis), tells him she thinks her older daughter, Katherine (Brianne Howey), is possessed by a demon.

Father Tomas doesn't believe in demons, and knowing that Angela's husband, Henry (Alan Ruck), suffered a traumatic brain injury that has left him childlike, and that Katherine is recovering from a car accident in which someone close to her was killed, he seems right to be skeptical, even if we already know Angela isn't imagining things.

Father Tomas is soon having visions involving a very different style of priest, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels, Flesh and Bone), as things go bump all over the place at the Rances'.

Herrera, Davis, and Ruck are all good enough to make me want to see more, but there have been so many decades of demons since the original movie made heads spin, that the evil - or at least its special-effects-assisted manifestation - feels a little tired.

Maybe someday there'll be a place on television for a show about religion helping people to cope with the everyday horrors that can strike at any time, but that show obviously can't be The Exorcist.

Notorious (9 p.m. Thursday, ABC). Cynicism about the justice system is all the rage, but that doesn't put every show about the intersection of money, media, and the law in the same class as The People v. O.J. Simpson any more than giving a show a provocative one-word title makes it the next Scandal.

ABC's Notorious briefly breaks producer Shonda Rhimes' Thursday streak as Scandal takes a pregnant pause for star Kerry Washington. It features Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) and Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me) as TV news producer Julia George and flashy defense attorney Jake Gregorian, who use each other to advance causes that may occasionally overlap with justice.

Co-created by Josh Berman (Drop Dead Diva, The Mob Doctor) and blogger Allie Hagan (Suri's Burn Book), it's supposedly inspired by the dynamic between longtime Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker and criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos, though I'm not sure why Walker and Geragos would be eager for people to know that.

In the pilot premiering Thursday, the people are pretty (and pretty underhanded), the situations mildly predictable, and the production as frenetic as any cable news hour.

I've never missed Scandal's Olivia Pope (Washington) more.

MacGyver (8 p.m. Friday, CBS). After ordering a complete reshoot of the first pilot, CBS, MacGyver-like, came through with something that feels enough like the '80s-era ABC original to be a museum piece (if ticking time bombs were allowed in museums).

Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class) stars as Angus "Mac" MacGyver, an inventive type possessed of great hair and a slightly obnoxious voiceover. Richard Dean Anderson fans might accept no substitutes, but those who loved George Eads in CSI could be happy to see him again as Mac's comrade-in-disarmament. Sandrine Holt (House of Cards) and Justin Hires (Rush Hour) also star.

Meanwhile, on the streaming front: Friday marks the return of Amazon's Transparent and Netflix's Longmire as well as the premiere of its new comedy anthology, Easy.

graye@phillynews.com

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THE NEW TV SEASON

Pitch

 

9 p.m. Thursday, Fox.

Notorious

 

9 p.m. Thursday, ABC.

MacGyver

 

8 p.m. Friday, CBS.

The Exorcist

 

9 p.m. Friday, Fox.